Housing Instability and Homelessness Endangers Emancipated Foster Youth

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), together with the Research and Data Analysis Division (RDA), has released a report titled “The Housing Status and Well-Being of Youth Aging Out of Foster Care in Washington State.” This study recounts the housing outcomes of 1,116 youth that graduated from the foster care system in State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2010 or 2011. When youth age out of the system at age 18, they often struggle while transitioning to independent living, for which the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program provides essential resources, especially in regard to rent assistance, transitional housing, and vouchers. This report demonstrates that former foster care youth unfortunately experience housing instability and even homelessness upon aging out.

Baseline data for this report was extracted and aggregated from several information systems and public funding systems, including the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, Automatic Client Eligibility System (ACES), and the U.S. Census and American Community Survey. This critical integration produced the following key findings that reflect the dire housing situations of emancipated foster youth. About one third (35%) of foster youth faced housing instability or homelessness within just a year of leaving the system. Youth leaving the foster care system often receive housing assistance or stay with family or friends as opposed to living independently. Of those aged out foster youth who were homeless, most were exposed to a high level of risk factors and required social and health services. This study exemplifies the capacity of integrated data systems as they generate a visibility through invaluable quantitative research that demonstrates the urgency of youth homelessness.

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